Jussi Adler-Olsen, Disgrace, translated from the Danish by Kyle Semmel (London: Penguin, 2012). A second, rather lacklustre outing for Carl Mørck of Department Q 2.5 stars
Opening line: Another shot echoed over the treetops.
Mercy, the first novel in the Danish ‘Department Q’ series, was one of my top reads of 2011 and I was very much looking forward to reading this follow-up. However, as is sometimes the way with that tricky second novel, Disgrace didn’t quite live up to the brilliance of its predecessor, and is ultimately an uneven read.
While the cold-case format and the conflicted figure of police detective Carl Mørck remain engaging, the depictions of the suspects in the twenty-year-old murder of two teenagers are disappointingly one-dimensional and let the novel down. Spoiled, fabulously wealthy individuals, they’re shown using money and social status to indulge their sadistic desires in a number of over-the-top, yet yawningly predictable ways. Having failed to accept them as realistic depictions, I tried viewing them as representative of a larger malaise within Danish society or the product of capitalism gone mad – but didn’t feel that either of these readings worked particularly well either.
A rare exception to the novel’s monochrome characterisations is the figure of Kimmie, the only girl to have been part of the group, whose more complex psychological profile allows us to understand the origins of her behaviour, and her reasons for choosing to live rough in the present. Her status is that of both abuser and abused, and her representation raises some interesting questions about gender and power relations. In this respect, the novel links back positively to Mercy, whose core strength was the strong depiction of its central female protagonist Merete.
I’m still keen to read the next instalment in the series, as the concept of a cold-case Department Q led by maverick detective Mørck has plenty of potential. However, if the third novel is closer to Disgrace than Mercy as a reading experience, I may call it a day. Either way we’ll be hearing more of the series shortly, as according to the publisher, both the first and second novels are to be adapted by the makers of the Stieg Larsson films.
You can read an extract from Disgrace here.
Mrs. P’s review of Mercy is available here.
Thanks to Penguin for providing Mrs. Peabody Investigates with a review copy.
Mrs. Peabody awards Disgrace an underwhelmed 2.5 stars.